Test Icicles

For Screening Purposes Only

(Domino; 2006)

By Alan Baban | 13 January 2008

What’s up with new band names recently? The inexplicable influx of lupine monikers (Wolf Parade, We Are Wolves, Wolf Eyes, AIDS Wolf, Wolfmother…) is one thing, but Test Icicles? I always thought that stuff was limited to scatological obsessed 13 year olds bereft of a dog-eared Catcher in the Rye. I guess it’s forgivable up to the age of fifteen, late-bloomers and all, but if you’re in your mid-twenties and still getting off on scrabble dosed puerility then something really is wrong. Or maybe you’re just in a punk/pop outfit; a Dude Ranch-era Tom Delonge would be so proud.

But enough on the semantics of buffoonery. I, as ridiculous as it may seem (and especially to those who know me personally), am a music critic, and it is my obligation to inform you, salient reader, of my opinion on Test Icicles. And if you don’t really care about the opinions of music critics (and why would you), you can just listen to the thing yourself and come to the same conclusion: For Screening Purposes Only is pretty enjoyable in places, but it's also an absolute beast of a debut album, a carnivorous record that batters the listener senseless with a series of aggro workouts, amounting to a long, modulated tsunami of static.

A lazy critic could define Test Icicle’s "sound" as a tyre tracked conflation of Franzetera and the Youth’s noisiest moments, dropped in a bath of acid, emerging, mauled and mutated into an emo kid’s dream Halloween costume. That’s the definition I’m sticking with. It’s accurate. You wouldn’t want to meet Test Icicles in a dark alley past midnight . You wouldn’t want to meet Test Icicles behind the counter of KFC, and you certainly wouldn’t want to meet Test Icicles outside a Barry Manilow concert. But Halloween only comes once a year, and like every Boogie MonsterTM that cavorts in the nightlight, you’ve only got so long to scare the little kiddies before a Buffylite slayer spears you. I’m not sure if I’m frightened by the Test Icicles themselves, but the prospect of a couple of more albums of this -- or, heaven forbid, a spin-off genre -- veers on the grotesque.

We’ve already seen the domes of the fragile, nuanced singer-songwriter, Clash City Rockers, and various animal collectives assimilated by and then laicized into the sonorous carcass of integrity. Maybe it’s because my first exposure to the band was a friend informing me of their ascending the "NME Chart," in the good company of the Arctic Monkeys et al, or maybe it’s just because three precocious kids sparked a major label bidding war on the back of an accomplished skewer of dance/thrash/emo (“Boa vs. Python”), and I’m still playing an acoustic guitar in my bedroom.

Most times, though, it feels like For Screening Purposes Only is the soundtrack to the most debauched, derailed night of hedonism since the last Weezer record, and only three people are invited. Try as they might, it’s hard to be sold into Test Icicles cannibalistic nightmare; it just gets annoying. The lack of variety here is as unsurprising as the rehashed chord progressions between songs. If you don't want to take my word for it, again, just listen to this thing, hear how average it for yourself. If you're still reading, well, a bad album gets a bad final metaphor: like a meaty pizza from Domino’s, there seems to be more barbecue sauce here than chicken, lamb or buffalo, and it inevitably all deteriorates into a tasteless, gross morass. Needs more nutrition.